WARNING - content including coarse language and/or sexual content may be offensive to some.
a short story by Mark Kolke
July 25, 2011
It hurt far less than last time.
“Norton Bishop, it is the decision of this panel that your parole is denied”, and his gavel made contact with the oak table – a weird crack sounded throughout the hearing room, when Parole Hearing Chairman Harvey Aboudian bellowed with his disdainful snarl, “and we are adjourned”.‘Oh, Mr. Norton, one more thing for you to be aware of; in our written findings we confirmed that you are eligible to re-apply for parole in six months.Your attorney Ms. Winston will explain the ruling to you. That is all”.
The dank parole board hearing room at ArizonaStateHospital’s prison wing fell silent. Everyone filing out and mumbling inaudibly among themselves, booking golf games or lunch I expect, rather than any discussion of my case. Soon it was me, my legal aid attorney Shelby Winston, and Isaiah Hayes, the guard waiting to take me back to my room.It was a cell by another name, but they called it my room.
“If I’d killed her; I mean, if I’d been convicted of murder, I’d have been paroled out of here long ago.Why couldn’t I have done that?Dammit, I’m innocent of these lousy fraud charges, and never got a dime I didn’t earn. Why can’t they see that after all this time?”
“Norton, I know you are frustrated, but this was a parole hearing – not your appeal, but we made progress this time.As the chairman said, you come up for parole eligibility again in six months. We’ll try again, and again and again if we have to, to get you home again,” came soft soothing words.I’m no longer so sure Shelby is as good an attorney as I need to finally get some vindication, but I’ve grown a sense of attachment to her to the point I don’t know what I would do if I changed attorneys.
I could get another attorney, but where would I get another friend?More importantly, where would I find someone else who believed in me?
Stupid question?I’m stuck in this hell-hole with no capacity to find friends outside here and no desire to make any in here, which leaves attorneys from legal aid as my sole source of new friendship.
Old friends abandoned me a long time ago.
When I was first committed for assessment and labeled ‘unfit to stand trial’, on the say-so of Dr. Le Van, there were suddenly fewer friends – precious few, who would come to visit me but at least I had that.But when Dr. Le Van re-labeled me fit to stand trial, saying I was sufficiently recovered through my treatment for schizophrenia, that life became tortured.
I’m not schizoid – never was, but that was his diagnosis, so I’ve been taking thorazine and haloperidol.He’s been reducing the doses lately so I don’t feel like I am in a constant fog.
I had fought long and hard with Shelby about defense strategy.I was innocent of the charges and wanted to plead not guilty.She counseled me that was too risky. That, if convicted, the total charges would have me serving up to 25 years and ineligible for parole for 10 yrs.She argued that a better strategy was to plead ‘guilty except insane’ so that I would have to spend time in the loony bin, and then be released when I was well enough to be re-introduced to society.For what?So everybody could think I actually did it – defrauded all those people, and that I’m crazy! I said, “Are you nuts? I’m not nuts and I’m not going to pretend that I am.”
I was right.
But, in terms of getting out – and getting free again, she was right.I haven’t forgotten that, - as much as I could not see it at the time, she had my best long-term interests at heart.
As asylums for the totally deranged and criminally insane go, this place is probably not a bad place, or worse than any other place to get your head straight, to have anything remotely resembling a civilized conversation – it borders on insufferable and cruel at the same time.
The start of this seems so distant now that the actual events are impossible to remember without re-reading the transcripts from the coroner’s inquest.The inquest ruled Janis Donaldson’s death accidental. I thought it would be ruled a suicide.She was trying to kill herself, but as the counsel for the government pointed out to me, she didn’t die from the act of suicide or trying to stage a supposed attack if that is what her intent was, but rather that she died from smoke inhalation because she didn’t have the 10th grade science student’s brainpower to realize that tossing a match inside a gasoline sprinkled car would cause an explosion.
The evidence pointed to her having staged it all – as if bad guys were after her, the way she had postured recent events to the investors she was bilking – but instead she got an explosion. The flash of flame, smoke and heat roared out the window and almost immediately incinerated her lungs.As simple as A, B, C … case closed, it was an accident.Her insurance policies payable to me offered her husband Drew and her empty handed investors no compensation at all.She had pulled a switch - named me as a beneficiary.I don’t know if she did it so much to be benevolent to me for all the trouble she knew I would have to suffer through, or to leave me well fixed – as much as she did it to piss off Drew. Mostly I think she did it with no intention of dying.
Little comfort for me that I have a pile of untouchable cash waiting for me when I get out, I can’t touch it or use it in any way until I am either exonerated proving my innocence or until all claims by the investors she swindled have been paid. That’s not going to happen. They are in their own quagmire of litigation over the seized assets of her company, trying to intervene for ranking as creditors ahead of the IRS.
Later, back in my cell with only half an hour till lights-out, I re-read my notes of my recollection of the events that led to the last eight years of the bizarre gong-show my life has become.It was now reading more like a fairy-tale than a diary, more romance fiction than a précis for my attorney’s actions in court if and when we are successful in our next appeal, if it is ever granted, or for restructuring somehow with her argument next time, in favour of my being given parole.
And I re-read my print-out of that letter to Jan, the one that got her to contact me – the trigger to the start of the affair – long before I knew anything about her business, before her frauds were exposed, before her death and this whole miserable mess unfolded.
I read it for what must be the 500th time, pages thumb worn, some of them torn. Others were grubby. At first I hadn’t cared so much, but now I realized this was my evidence, and worth protecting.I’ve been thinking, I should get Shelby to make a copy. The risk of losing this has existed since I first wrote it, but it was so much fresher in my memory then.
Now, I know my memory is not from the actual event of writing it – so far in the past now - but more from the recollection of the last time I re-read it.I would never say that if called upon to read it or answer questions on it in a courtroom, but that’s the truth.I’ve memorized most of it, in sequence, but I can’t remember isolated parts without re-living it in my mind in start-to-finish sequence.
It was in March of 2003. I had recently divorced.Well, it wasn’t final, but I was on my way.
My daughter Kim suggested it. She said, “Dad, it’s all on-line now. You should try it. Get out, meet some nice women instead of sitting at home feeling sorry for yourself.”
I was writing back and forth for several weeks to a woman named Janis. This was long before she talked with me about investments, or money or anything else. Long before she hired me to be the Chief Financial Officer at her Los Angeles-based real estate investment company, Emerald Crossing Commercial Properties. She had a big syndication organized – persuading people to move their 401K’s out of the country through an off-shore corporation in the Cayman Islands, and then re-investing in the project in Los Angeles.It was proposed to have apartments, a shopping center, a hotel and a golf course.All that ever went up was a sign on the corner of a vacant site. The investors got fleeced big time, and then got a double whammy from the IRS for taking their funds out of their 401K for ineligible investments.
I was in touch with her through the on-line dating service. Initially we had each portrayed ourselves as single, which wasn’t true.Then she admitted to being separated, and finally, to being separated in her mind only, but planning to leave a bad marriage.Little did I know that, at that point, she was married and had no intentions of divorcing Drew for me, or for anyone.
I had a few minutes left before lights out.
I pulled out the print-out of that email I’d written to her so long ago, when she cut off contact on that dating site. I was so smitten.
I remember writing to her like it was yesterday. It read:
“Jan, I just wanted to thank you. You never responded to me, other than initially, with anything that even loosely implied interest. Thank you for that. You never answered my lust and attention, my desire or ease (in my mind) with which I might please you or that you might please me. Thank you for that.
I never acted on the impulse to 'get on a plane', not because you reacted so adversely to the shock of the idea, but because my reflection told me I wanted our meeting - if it were ever to take place - to be semi-accidental, soft, casual and easy (subconsciously perhaps, I was hoping you might ring one day to say 'hey, I'm in Calgary, care to have coffee?') but that never happened. Not yet anyway, and I've not been in Vancouver either.
Thank you for being non-responsive in all these ways, because I've learned something very valuable - and I want to share it. I came across a couple of quotes recently - didn't save them so I can't repeat them exactly; but old stuff, Goethe, Lao Tzu .. that kind of OLD, to the general effect that (and in this I don't just mean you - I mean ANYONE).
. . . to the effect 'I don't need your permission to love you' when I read words that conveyed that message, I thought . . . hmm, and I thought of you. I thought of others too, Not boyish unrequited love . . . but a flood of memories of all those times, along my path, when someone else's reaction (or non-reaction) caused me to abandon my interest or caring about someone.
You and I just had a spark.OK, sparks. I thought there were lots, but one great conversation does not a relationship make. But there were sparks. There will be sparks again. I will pay them greater heed and pay less heed to those who might reject my ovations. Thank you for that. In your beautiful silence - just a picture on here that I look at often because I noted you as 'favorite', making you easy to find, you helped me with this process. Thank you for that. You inspired me. Thank you for that. You inspired one of the best poems I've written. Thank you for that.
You are, I am certain, a spectacular woman deserving the love, attention and affection of a fabulous man who is a right-fit, like a glove for your hand. Long ago, at the beginning of this process it was clear to me that your door was not open to the possibility that person might be me; whether that was good judgment, good management or a good idea is not for me to know or find out - but it was what it was.
My mistake was that I did not, at that early moment - take a different path with you - of either 'thanks, bye' or to get on a plane and knock on your door. Thanks for this lesson.I'll never have trouble making those kinds of choices any more. With an imaginary long slow deep wet kiss, a grab of a butt cheek and the back of my hand drifting across your nipple . . .I leave you now and wish you great success in your search for a glove that fits.”
And, with that, I ended it, or so I thought. It hadn’t ended. That e-mail, as it turned out, was the catalyst of her hopping on a plane – she flew to Phoenix the next day and came directly to my office in Scottsdale, pushed me up against the wall and began to have her way with me the way no other woman ever has.
It was two days of debauchery later that she confessed - she was married.But the fire was kindled, lit and ablaze by then.Her honey hair bouncing off her shoulders, her size 6 body, and her size 1,000 mind were so exciting. Whatever issues or obstacles I saw to having an affair with her behind her husband’s back, or taking over as her CFO and working out of their Phoenix office, were countered by some tickling, being dragged off to the bedroom again with her giggling, ‘Norty, honey, these are just little problems – build a bridge, and get over it.”
The lights flashed twice. The buzzer sounded, and then they faded out – as they did every night here in camp crazy town.
I lay awake, recalling it all, a Saturday morning, July 17th, I’d just written to Jan. Written my last I expected. She’d been one of those many faces with bios, the fellow members on an internet dating service. From the time I first saw her and clicked ‘add to favorites’ she’d become one. I’d added her to my list of experiences whether she liked it or not.
Of course I would woo her.I wrote to her. She wrote back. I wrote, ‘Let’s talk’ and soon we swapped phone numbers. Before I could call, she did.
Unusual. Usually, women move slowly, are reluctant, want to make the 2nd move, not the first.Good move. I liked that. In the couple of days that followed I admired her face on my computer screen excessively, distracted from other prospects, distracted from everything except eating and going to work of course --- things, other friends on-line and live local ones too could just wait.Smitten by a photo, a few written words and a sexy voice on the phone.
Then, it must have been three or four days after our first exchange, following that first conversation – surely she’d read up on me, Googled me, asked questions on everything anyone would want to know about me and read everything she could get her mouse and keyboard to find . . . but, alas, she had not.
Still, we had a nice conversation.It was free-wheeling, it was open, fun, funny – her, not just me.We covered all the standard questions, I asked, she gave good answers:
“Do you smoke?”
“Do you keep cats?”
“What’s your position on country music?”
“Do you take mind altering medication?”
From those, she seemed not to have a reciprocal group of questions – we moved into ease relaxed story swapping, it felt like a first date and my head was swimming. OK, my cock was hard too and, perhaps, overrode my better judgment.What the hell, get it over with early – leap that chasm. I leapt.
Disguised it, I did, in discussion about sex, politics, religion – explaining that I would like to get those issues on the table early; that experience had taught – well, it had – that a disconnect or mismatch on those fronts did not bode well for a relationship start. She somewhat agreed, I think.It is hard to tell on the phone, especially with someone you scarcely know, to get a read on someone’s mood, reactions – can’t see their eyes, facial expressions or body language. I was on a roll. I was horny. Thought she was too. Should I?OK, leap time.I asked, “So, do you have any sexually transmitted diseases?”, to which she responded, “No”.She’d lied, but how was I to know?
I said, “Neither do I . . . but I have a skin condition.”, and I went on to explain that I have genital herpes.The scourge of middle-aged dating, the dreaded skin condition, cousin of the virus that gives you cold sores, the kind that gives you little blister-like lesions on your cock with a day’s tingling of notice.Fuck, I hate having it. It’s not that hard to manage, live with or be sexually active with – it really isn’t, but bringing it up, that’s the fucking horrible part.How to do that? When?
My experience had been, that early is better – and I still feel that way – and that most women in my age-appropriate range are aware of it to some degree, suggests to me that this ‘tell them early’ strategy is best, because who wants to straddle that barbed-wire fence while moving from living room couch to bed on the 2nd or 3rd (sometimes the 1st) date with an ‘oh, by the way, did I mention my medical condition?’ …. So, I did it early. OK, so maybe, on the phone, 2nd conversation, wasn’t the best strategy – but I was looking at airline schedules, figuring out whether I could fly out next week to meet her . . . so now or never.Two things happened; first, she confessed (though she said she always waited till the 3rd date) that she had it too. Philandering ex-husband had brought it home, . . . and demise of her marriage it became.The second, well … that was the last conversation.
Today, three or four months later, after some spotty (very spotty) email correspondence that really never went deeper than ‘hi, how are you, have a nice day’ superficial crap-dom, I ended it.OK, so it was one-way thing. I ended it. Right?Damn right I did.
I never realistically thought she would come ‘round, you know, but I was hopeful in a way that she might call up one day to say she was in town – ‘let’s coffee’ or write somewhat longingly, in search of candor and truth telling.
Suddenly, someone was shaking me, “Mr. Bishop, wake up Mr. Bishop, it’s time for your medication.”
“Who the hell are you, and what do you want?”
“Norton Bishop, come on now, you know who I am. My name is nurse Janis. Janis Donaldson at your service.You see me all the time Mr. Bishop. You still know me and recognize me, don’t you? I understand you’ve been dreaming and talking in your sleep. The night staff couldn’t get you settled, so they gave you a sedative. That is why you are a little groggy.Why don’t you sit up now. Your breakfast is here.”
“Where am I?Can we go to the golf course today? I need to work on my short game.”
“Really, Mr. Bishop, you have to stop that silliness – can’t you see the snow on the ground?It’s the middle of February.There won’t be any golf until March or April.”
“Now listen nurse Donaldson, you know I play every Wednesday and Friday with the boys, we have a standing tee-time at Talking Stick and then we go for drinks after.”
“Talking Stick?Where is that Mr. Bishop?”
“It’s right up the road, here in Scottsdale – on East Indian Bend, you know where it is, don’t you?”
She started laughing.“Did you hear that Harvey, Mr. Bishop thinks he’s in Scottsdale and going golfing today?”
A male nurse came over in response to her, leaned over me enough that I could see his silly grin and big black face against his white uniform. His name tag said Harvey Aboudian in black lettering on the brass tag.
“Well, Mr. Bishop, you can golf here in the spring if you want. Right here, in Dublin we’ve got lots of golf courses.You can go down to MuirfieldVillage and play. You still have a membership there you know.Maybe, one day this spring, if you are feeling up to it, we could go over there on an outing.”
“What, I’m in Columbus – not Scottsdale?”
“Yes, Mr. Bishop, now sit up and have some more juice – I’ve got your Namenda pill ready for you.”
“Namenda, that’s a new name. What’s that for? Is that something new Dr. Le Van is trying for my schizophrenia?”
“Oh no, Mr. Bishop, Namenda is the same thing you take every day – it’s for your Alzheimers.Did you forget again?That’s rough, isn’t it, to know and remember parts of your life and completely forget other parts.”
“Where am I?”
“Mr. Bishop, you remember don’t you? You are a resident at Emerald Crossings. We are on Muirfield Drive here in Dublin.”
“How did I get here?”
The honey haired one, Janis answered, “Well, that’s a long story. When your wife Donna got sick with Parkinson’s she couldn’t handle you at home any more.She arranged for you to live here. We’ve been taking care of you for three years now.”
“But what about my appeal, and my parole hearing – I was in Scottsdale yesterday at the ArizonaStateHospital, there was a hearing. I didn’t get parole, but I can apply again in six months. Shelby said I can try again.”
“Shelby, that’s the name of your assistant. Before you got sick, you were a forensic fire investigator.Shelby was your assistant.She still runs your office. She comes to visit every other Saturday.”
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